iPhone 15 Pro is shaping up to be the most ‘meh’ phone of 2023

iPhone 15 Pro Max mockup with thin bezels
(Image credit: Unbox Therapy / YouTube)

Last year I wrote about how I was going to skip the iPhone 14 Pro for the iPhone 15 Pro, citing that I wasn’t convinced the Dynamic Island offered enough to have me ditch my trusty iPhone 13 Pro. But now I’m cooling on the idea of the iPhone 15 Pro, too. 

That’s because the rumors are coalescing and shaping up to usher in yet another incremental update to most models in the rumored iPhone 15 family. 

But first a little bit of context. At the end of 2021, I made the move from Android to iPhone despite having access to some of the best Android phones. While I’ve come to the conclusion that iPhones are kinda boring, I find it hard to deny how slick they are to use and how convenient the Apple ecosystem is. 

So I’ve come to terms with using the iPhone 13 Pro as my main phone and having the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Google Pixel 7 Pro as my secondary handsets. Dual-wielding smartphones lets me keep track of developments and innovation in both camps. 

And it’s that last bit that I find most compelling. Sure, smartphones have become more incremental from generation to generation, with smaller jumps in noticeable performance gains and photography results. But those models on our best foldable phones list and the smart capabilities of the Pixel 7a in an affordable package catch my eye. 

So when the net-gen iPhone rumors start popping, I can’t help but get sucked in. I had been hoping for something special with the iPhone 14 Pro. Indeed, it brought in the Dynamic Island and a new 48-megapixel camera, but the former doesn't seem to have a great deal of utility other than looking flashy, and the latter has lost out to the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra in the best phone camera battle based on our testing. 

As a result, I was pinning my upgrade ambitions on the iPhone 15 Pro. Yet increasingly, the best rumors are turning out to be dead ends. 

iPhone 15 Pro rumors: from exciting to incremental 

iPhone 15 Pro Max

(Image credit: Ice Universe / Twitter)

Tips that the iPhone 15 Pro models could use a titanium frame and sport more rounded edges, seem to have withered, with recent renders hinting at Apple continuing with the flat edges seen on the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Solid-state buttons, which were touted as a way to make the next-gen Pro iPhone more durable and use more advanced haptics, have now been shot down.

Solid-state buttons, which were touted as a way to make the next-gen Pro iPhone more durable and potentially use more advanced haptics, have now been shot down, with tipsters suggesting they’ll be a feature of the iPhone 16. Separately, I'm not convinced there's much need for a rumored action button or it's utility on a phone. 

Murmurings of thinner display bezels for the iPhone 15 Pro models sound good, but are hardly the biggest upgrade. And the rumored A17 Bionic will likely deliver masses of smartphone performance. Yet the A15 Bionic in the iPhone 13 Pro doesn't struggle with anything I throw at it, so a more powerful chip gets a big ‘meh’ from me. 

USB-C connectivity looks like it’s coming for all iPhone 15 models. But I, and others at Tom’s Guide, feel this should have happened years ago, so it’s more a retrofit than an innovative addition. 

The one iPhone 15 Pro Max upgrade I'm excited about

One area that the iPhone 15 Pro could win me over, is the rumored periscope camera for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Such a camera could significantly improve the optical zoom range of the next high-end iPhone, and as someone who loved the 5x periscope camera on the Oppo Find X2 Pro, I’m certainly ready for such an upgrade. 

Yet there’s a big ol’ catch here: the iPhone 15 Pro Max could see a $200 price hike, meaning it might start at $1,399 and top out at $1,799. That’s too much in the face of Android competition on our best phones list, especially when the other upgrades seem so incremental. 

There’s scope for the standard iPhone 15 to draw my attention given it's set to get the Dynamic Island. But again, I don’t feel enough has been done with the display feature to get my tech synapse tingling. Plus, I’m still worried Apple will stick with a 60Hz display for its standard next-gen iPhones. 

Where's the real Apple innovation?

So over the past eight months where the iPhone 15 rumors have gone from a roiling pot of speculation and guesswork to a simmering stew of sensible upgrades, my excitement for a next-gen iPhone has died down. The tech enthusiast in me finds that sad, though the voice of common sense will often pipe up noting just how solid and reliable my iPhone 13 Pro remains.  

Overall, if I want smartphone innovation I think I’ll have to ditch Apple and turn my eye towards the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and the Google Pixel Fold. After all, it would appear that the crew at Cupertino is focusing its innovation efforts on the Apple Vision Pro AR/VR headset. To be fair, if Apple can pull that off and make ‘mixed reality’ mainstream, I’ll swallow the lack of exciting developments in iPhones. 

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Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.